CHARTERS PART one
1945-1969 page 3
The culinary wizardry of Mrs Innes through the rationing of war naturally came to an end when her daughter Pauline completed her training at Charters. Enter Daisy Staples with her caretaker husband, Arthur. Charles Dickens surely had a clairvoyant's premonition when creating his character, Mrs Squeers, in Nicholas Nickleby. Daisy was mighty, Draconian and, soon-to-be, despised. The quality of cooking plummeted beyond acceptable taste. "How she won through the interview we shall never know," says Paul, "it can't have included a practical demonstration." Judy Jenkins writes, "The food was awful - Daisy Staples actually kept count of the dishes I wouldn't eat!" Her reign of terror soon came to an end when Ted and Muriel Gosden were recruited; he from a nearby bakery up the Lingfield Road. Though the catering improved it was hardly at the 'cutting-edge'. "We were always hungry!" writes Heather, "but they did their best with rationing still in force in 1951/2. We would use our coupons at the tuck shop on the corner of Moat Road to keep our energy levels up." Both Ted and his wife were generous-hearted and concerned for the students' welfare and 'learnt on the job'. They survived, in one guise or another, for some thirty years: Ted even took to building scenery for school shows when produced in the hall. In work, like 'old-retainers', they were discrete but, in The Lodge, insider information would go in one door and out through another - discretely! Muriel revealed her cannibalistic quirk to this author, when taking delivery of pig's liver for that day's lunch, she cut slivers of the dreaded offal and proceeded to chew them raw - and swallow.
This digression is offered simply because the canteen in any residential school is the aorta of daily life and is certain to rouse memories in everyone. There were added treats of course apart from regular night-raids on the larder; Judy Jenkins writes, "Ye Olde Welcome tea-room on a Saturday afternoon was a popular filling-station."
As the nominal roll increased so, too, the demand for improvements in catering had to be embraced. Ted found it difficult to relinquish his role as supremo when it was decided to employ contract caterers in the 1970s. He persevered nonetheless in donning his Gardner Merchant uniform as under-chef and keeping his quietly querulous commentary for The Lodge.
Apart from the ad hoc arrangements at Felden it must be said that Noreen, Victor and Marjorie had no experience of running a boarding school though Felden had been a valuable initiation. Also, they had no thorough educational background of their own to draw upon. Education was not a requirement at Romford either. Responsible fee-paying parents were beginning to realise that they could not simply indulge their daughters' desires in being drawn to the taunting prospects and glamour of the spot-light; they were becoming aware of the harsh realities in achieving success on the stage. The father of Julie Watts, we believe, insisted that his daughter be given tuition for mathematics for her School Certificate: hitherto, maths was only provided at a basic level. They were in post-war Britain where a new order was growing in society: new demands: new aspirations. The Welfare State was taking control and its statutory procedures expected greater educational priority for its youth. The concept of privilege was also being questioned. Bush Davies had therefore to complement parents' expectations and take education seriously. Noreen and Victor must have been directly influenced by the experience of son Paul, both at Heath Brow, where he had boarded for a year while Bush Davies resettled, and at Ardingly College, where he spent the next five years. One of the most respected independent schools in the country, Ardingly offered a real, comprehensive education, an example from which Noreen and Victor could model their own modest establishment, albeit with dissimilar objectives.
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